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Black pudding is the new kale – Taking evidence-based communication in nutrition nationwide

Leading up to Evidence Live 2016, we will be publishing a series of blog posts highlighting projects, initiatives and innovative ideas from future leaders in evidence based medicine.
Please read on for the second in the series from Sophie Roberts of Oxford AHSN.
If you are interested in submitting a blog post, please contact alice.rollinson@phc.ox.ac.uk. Stay tuned! 

 

sophierobertsThe world loves a nutrition news story but there is a danger to this unrelenting flow of contradictory stories.  This week’s superfood is black pudding, hot on the heels of chia seeds and kale.  People reading contradictory media stories report being the most confused about what to eat and understandably believe that “scientists keep changing their minds” [1].  Journalistic quality is a contributing factor, with only 6% of a sample of newspaper health stories being based on high quality, authoritative research evidence such as randomized controlled trials or systematic reviews [2].  The academic community also plays a part in this with institutions often overhyping the impact of individual studies to increase press coverage and journal editors and funders doing little to raise the quality of nutrition research [3].

As a profession dietitians are trained and regulated to ‘engage in evidence-based practice’ [4], but with fewer than 7000 of us in the UK the real challenge is to find a way to communicate the big picture behind these stories to the entire country.  To answer this we created the BDA Media Centre [5]. After only six years we are now in a position where our team of media spokespeople is a trusted resource for journalists across the major TV, radio and paper news outlets and many magazines and high profile websites. We’re invited to comment on stories from celebrity diets and health scares to public health policy.

Everyone on the team has training in interpreting research evidence and communication skills and many spokespeople are leaders in their subject areas or experienced researchers. We are known for regularly meet hectic journalistic schedules and typically match requests with a willing spokesperson within the hour.  Our success is down to strength in numbers with over 90 volunteer dietitians on the team.  For speedy turnaround the team also has an online secret weapon called the Practice-based Evidence in Nutrition Database [6].

Look out for us when there is nutrition in the news and I bet you’ll be surprised how often we are there.


References

  1. Nagler, Rebekah H. “Adverse Outcomes Associated with Media Exposure to Contradictory Nutrition Messages.” Journal of health communication1 (2014): 24–40. PMC. Web. 26 Feb. 2016.
  2. Robinson, A., et al. “Analysis of health stories in daily newspapers in the UK.” Public Health1 (2013): 39-45.
  3. Ladher, Navjoyt. “Nutrition science in the media: you are what you read.” BMJ 353 (2016)
  4. Health and Care Professions Council (2016). Standards of conduct, performance and ethics. London, Health and Care Professions Council.
  5. British Dietetic Association. (2016) BDA Media Centre. Retrieved 26 February 2016 from https://www.bda.uk.com/media/home
  6. Dietitians of Canada. (2016) Practice-based Evidence in Nutrition [PEN]. Retrieved 26 February 2016 from http://www.pennutrition.com.

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